The Raving Theist

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Magic

April 7, 2006 | 58 Comments

What do authoritarian, women-hating atheists like me do when they realize there’s no God to back up their crazy anti-abortion stance? Amanda of Pandagon explains it all:

Godlessness and liberalism generally do go together, though, because I think that once you embrace a view of equality, you stop needing a god around to justify hierarchies. That said, it’s obvious that a minority of atheists start off as pro-hierarchy and simply try to find replacement religions to justify their arguments from authority — the Raving Atheist, for instance, is on that list and he’s prone to making anti-abortion arguments invoking the concept that ensoulment happens at conception, proving that while atheists by definition don’t believe in god, some of us still believe in magic, in this case Sperm Magic. Again, I’m wary of “atheist” as a group identity for that reason. You can’t really conclude anything about an atheist but that he/she doesn’t believe in god; that person might be a magical thinker anyway, might deify science or space aliens or Sperm Magic, like RA does.

Amanda doesn’t link to the posts in which I supposedly made these arguments about souls and sperm (perhaps she believe being an atheist relieves her from citing any authority at all). I have not. In fact, I’ve argued precisely the opposite:

I don’t believe that God installs an eternal soul into every person at conception. I don’t believe in eternal souls at all. If they did exist, abortion wouldn’t matter. The soul could simply reunite with God, or find another body to inhabit. Murder wouldn’t matter, either, for the same reason.

But I do believe that my genetic, mathematical identity was set at conception. That is not some fantasy or superstition. To have destroyed that clump of cells would have destroyed me, forever, and my only chance at existence. No soul would have escaped to emerge in another pregnancy, any more than that I would survive somewhere else as someone else were I killed tomorrow. It is a distinctly superstitious view that so completely separates human identity from its material form. It is the view that sustains belief in a ghosts, spirits, angels, reincarnation and heaven. There are religious pro-choice people who support abortion on precisely the ground that the fetus re-emerges elsewhere; it is not clear to under that theory why the death of the mother in a dangerous pregnancy would concern them if she enjoys the same fate.

It would equally be a fantasy to believe that I existed before conception. No sperm or egg, has the potential by itself to develop into a human being — any more than does an acorn or a rock. The Mormon view that we all met together God at creation, before our births, is as much a fantasy as the Christian view that we join Him after death. I was never, genetically or mathematically, identical or even similar to anything that existed before my conception.

So I’ve never relied on any form of superstition or magic to support my position. My view that human life begins at conception is shared by many atheists. As late as 1963, even Planned Parenthood proclaimed that “an abortion kills the life of a baby after it has begun.” I don’t think Amanda would accuse a pregnant woman who believed what that she saw on an ultrasound was fully her child of “magical” thinking. And there are plenty of feminists who support penalizing the killing of a wanted fetus (at any stage) by a third party, a position which could not possibly be justified without according it human status.

Magical thinking occurs when one asserts that the human status of the fetus is mind-dependent, varying from woman to woman, dependent on the notion of “wantedness.” That’s the thinking prevalent in the pro-choice movement today. “Nobody can say when life begins,” the argument goes, “so it’s whatever anybody says it is.” Or “between a woman and her god,” even if that god throws infants into volcanos. Planned Parenthood and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice have hired clergy to promote precisely that sort of view.

Amanda raises the “sperm magic” argument simply to avoid a discussion of the fetus and identifying at which magical moment after conception she would draw the line. Unless she believes that babies are brought full-grown by the stork, she does draw it somewhere. And at that point, whether it’s six months, eight months or after birth, all her talk about “hierarchy” and “authority” would magically disappear. She’d become as hierarchical as anyone else, insisting that the being had some sort of intrinsic worth that entitled it to moral and/or legal protection.

Significantly, I’ve never seen Amanda criticize pro-choice advocates who engage in arguments from hierarchy and authority. Jill of Feministe believes that abortion should be unlawful after six months after conception, the state assuming a higher hierarchical position at that point. She also believes that religious theories are relevant to the debate, specifically those contained in the Book of Exodus. It doesn’t get any more magical or hierarchical than that.

[UPDATE: Jill of Feministe responds to my characterization of her views (comment 45) and I reply (comment 46).].

[UPDATE 2: Jill of Feministe bans me from her blog (comment 48) and I apologize (comment 49)].

Comments

58 Responses to “Magic”

  1. MobileSuitPilotX
    April 7th, 2006 @ 1:10 pm

    Wherever you sit on the abortion debate, it’s a fact that theists are out-breeding us. (slightly off-topic, but relevant) This, to me, is the only reason the godless should at least CONSIDER the effect abortions have on the secular population and our level of influence in society.

  2. franky
    April 7th, 2006 @ 1:28 pm

    Yea, I think you’re pretty clear on why you are against abortion and they don’t involve ensoulement at conception.

  3. Jahrta
    April 7th, 2006 @ 1:42 pm

    MobileSuitPilot – just beause an atheist or agnostic has a child, it’s no guarantee that said child will grow to embrace the views of the parents. Think about how many atheists come here to post that they were raised in deeply religious households. People become atheists through an examination of evidence, and by questioning the nature of the world around them. as a result, I will not TELL my children what to believe, but rather I will equip them with the tools of the free-thinking skeptic, and nature should do the rest. it takes the mind of a child to embrace theistic beliefs, and it takes the maturity of adulthood to shake them off. It is much easier simply never to embrace the realm of the supernatural in the first place, even if it is “cooler” than reality.

  4. solidussnake
    April 7th, 2006 @ 2:15 pm

    In all actuality, I think you overvalue your bodily self. In all actuality it is looking more and more like the gene is that which survives, and the body is merely a carrier. I do not take a pro-life or pro-choice stance on this data alone though. I do not value the life of an individual for its genetic attributes themselves, to value the mathematical value of an individual in this manner would be to value all life equally with a small clump of human cells. I value memetic information just as much as genetic information, as I see the advancement of our understanding of the universe as a contribution to the survivability of the species(with the exception of Sagen’s reference to destructive knowledge). This sets a higher value on the amount of informatino contained in an individual. Since the memetic information in utero is between non-existance to very minimal and very uniform, I don’t see it as a major loss of information added to the meme pool. Where as soon as the baby is born it begins experiencing information through all of its senses, developing specific memetic identity which will hopefully maintain health throughout the life of the individual(health: with few or no viral or otherwise superselfish memes). This precludes any justifcation for murder. As far as legal protection of a fetus, under the constitution of this country, I would define the conception of personhood as “when the child has the ability to survive without placental support or a technological replacement for placental support.” This allows for all memetically able beings to flourish. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t like the idea of late term or partial birth abortions, but I cannot justify that position without putting an arbitrary threshold personhood.

  5. Mookie
    April 7th, 2006 @ 3:17 pm

    #3

    Right on!

  6. Tom
    April 7th, 2006 @ 4:42 pm

    “I’m wary of “atheist” as a group identity […] You can’t really conclude anything about an atheist but that he/she doesn’t believe in god…”

    This I agree with. Atheism is not a “club” or a group of like-minded individuals. When atheists join together in solidarity, it is often in response to the intolerance from the religious sector. Those theists who see atheism as “unsuccessful” or “in decline” by referencing the membership of atheists groups fail to understand that many atheists, like myself, have never felt particularly impelled — or, maybe, threatened enough — to heed the rally-cry.

  7. conleythorn
    April 7th, 2006 @ 4:45 pm

    RA: “There are…feminists who support penalizing the killingof a wanted fetus (at any stage) by a third party, a position which could not possibly be justified without according it human status.”
    WHAT?! Killing a woman’s fetur against her wish is a criminal act, one which any moral person would wish to penalize. The question of human status here does not apply!
    ON “MAGICAL THINKING” & HIERARCHICAL DIVISIONS: When life begins has nothing to do with it. A bug is alive. Amoeba are alive. If we were convinced they were carriers of God-created souls we might spare them. We humans make hierarchical determinations in every area of life. We are obliged to do so. Nature does not arrange things to our convenience, a fact which any intellectual atheist surely knows. I reiterate what may atheists and virtually all theists seem unable to grasp: It is no tragedy, and no great evil, to terminate the life of a non-conscious and unfeeling embryo, and the emotion that is commonly vested in the “potentiality” of a fetus is a silliness, and amounts to the absurdity of a reverse nostalgia. You treasure your existence because you exist. If you had not come into being, it would not matter to you or to anyone else. What surely does matter is that there are now a billion or more miserable souls on Earth. We should not strive to add more. -Thorngod.

  8. Paul R.
    April 7th, 2006 @ 4:53 pm

    RA wrote: “No sperm or egg, has the potential by itself to develop into a human being — any more than does an acorn or a rock”

    What can “by itself” possibly mean here? A fetus doesn’t have the potential *by itself* to develop: it has to be in the womb. A one-month-old baby doesn’t have the potential *by itself* to develop: it needs parents to survive (in all except the most extreme or hypothetical situations). Even *I* don’t have the potential to develop by myself: I need resources.

    RA (with many others on both sides of the abortion issue) wants to draw a clean, hard line that would let securely tell us what is right and wrong, but reality is not so generous.

  9. Joe Max
    April 7th, 2006 @ 5:46 pm

    And there are plenty of feminists who support penalizing the killing of a wanted fetus (at any stage) by a third party, a position which could not possibly be justified without according it human status.

    Nonsense. It could be justified the same as any other form of mayhem (in the legal sense of the term). If someone lops my arm off, it’s a crime, but that doesn’t mean it’s because my arm is accorded “human status”. It was a part of my body, violently and forceably destroyed without my consent. The same goes for a fetus, which is a part of a woman’s body (until it isn’t.)

  10. Joe Max
    April 7th, 2006 @ 5:55 pm

    So, oh Raving Atheist, where do you stand on the “burning fertility clinic” scenario? For those not familiar with this thought experiment, imagine you have rushed into a burning fertility clinc with barely enough time to rescue ONE thing from it. In one room is a two-year old child, screaming for help. In another room is a perti dish containing five blastocysts awaiting in vitro fertilization.

    If the blastocysts are ‘morally’ equivilent to a fully born human child, then saving five of them outweighs the saving of a single two-year old child, right?

    So, which one do you save? This is a simple question that only requires a one word answer: either “blastocysts” or “child”. So which is it?

  11. The No God Boy
    April 7th, 2006 @ 7:11 pm

    One thing is for sure. RA is WAY off base on the whole abortion thing. If you have to look at it this way, perhaps the woman does not want the fetus/cell clump dead, she wants it out of her.

    Perhaps we should re-frame the issue. Its not abortion, its ejection.

    Once the fetus is ejected, RA can care for it.

    Oh, and look up human parthenogenesis. It can happen all by itself.

  12. allonym
    April 7th, 2006 @ 8:59 pm

    “And there are plenty of feminists who support penalizing the killing of a wanted fetus (at any stage) by a third party, a position which could not possibly be justified without according it human status.”

    There have been a couple of criticisms of this statement so far, and while I don’t agree with RA on the abortion issue as a whole I feel compelled to point out that the criticisms may be based unfairly on the unintentional omission of a key word. The argument, altered slightly:

    “There are plenty of feminists who support murder penalties for the killing of a wanted fetus by a third party, a position which could not possibly be justified without according it human status.”

    Murder is the key (missing) word, and it’s very specific to the taking of a human life as opposed to a more general infliction of injury or harm. So, if killing a fetus is to be deemed murder, and murder is the taking of a human life, a fetus must necessarily be human.

  13. SBW
    April 7th, 2006 @ 11:43 pm

    I love your arguments RA.

    Whenever I attempt to talk to anyone about abortion without bringing up religion they are the ones to attempt to bring it up.

    //Joe Mas said: So, which one do you save? This is a simple question that only requires a one word answer: either “blastocysts” or “child”. So which is it?//

    I would save the child, not because I consider him/her more human but because the child would probably be the one screaming in agony if they had to die. Maybe blastocysts die screaming in agony too, but I don’t know this for sure thus it can’t come into my consideration.

    Furthermore, your ability to feel pain or lack of being able to do so does not make one less human. If a person is in a coma, do they stop being human and thus we should be able to kill them at will?

    If dependency is what determines your humanity, should we kill all people once they stop being able to take care of themselves? Meaning, if a person goes to an assisted living home does the home now have the right to kill you at will because you are dependent upon them? Does anyone on whom you are dependent now become your owner and such has the right to do with you as they see fit?

    To be anti-abortion is more consistent and clearly more logical than to be pro-abortion.

  14. Tom
    April 8th, 2006 @ 12:33 am

    The “fertility clinic dilemma” seems a bit too hyperbolic to me. How about this problem: A woman is suffering a difficult pregnancy and her life is in danger because of it. If she carries the fetus to full term, the child will probably survive, but she will most likely die. Terminating the pregnancy is the only way to ensure the woman’s survival. Should she be talked out of having the abortion for the sake of the child? Or is this a situation in which abortion would be considered acceptable? If the latter, how is this exception on par with the idea that a fetus implicitly has same rights as viable human being?

  15. Jesse Card
    April 8th, 2006 @ 1:10 am

    It’s a bit much to say that “to be anti-abortion is more consistent and clearly more logical than to be pro-abortion.” There are arguments on both sides that are rational. Emotions aren’t very rational. I find my opinion heavily influenced by Carl Sagan’s “Abortion: Is it Possible to be both “Pro-life” and “Pro-Choice”?” which he wrote with Ann Druyan. [http://www.2think.org/abortion.shtml] as well as general information from books such as “A General Theory of Love” or books such as “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat” mostly for their ability to illuminate the workings of the human mind.
    So mostly my basis is that possibly the most defining aspect of our humanity is being able to *think* like humans. This ability is not present until the 5th month. Previous this, there may be some limbic activity, which may be able to sense pain. However, with no limbic system, there would be no pain. And really, previous the 5th month, there would be no “self” to experience pain.
    So as you’d asked, if they were in a coma? Do they have brain function? Or are they functionally brain-dead as in the case of Schiavo? In the latter case, where brain function beyond running lungs, heart, moans, eye motion, and mild motor functions? Where there is no higher-level thinking? I would say no, they aren’t what we might call human. Those things that we feel define us as human are not there. There is no self. No human. I don’t think the “potentiality” of humanity counts for anything. You could say the same of any live cell sample taken from me will (if not immediately) have a chance to become a fully human being through cloning.

  16. Joe Max
    April 8th, 2006 @ 2:39 am

    The “fertility clinic dilemma” seems a bit too hyperbolic to me.

    The scenario is “hyperbolic for a reason: creating a scenario where the scales are tilted in one, because it’s a five-to-one trade off. Someone else I read in response to this scenario commented that in the slightly different case of a room with one two-year old child in it, and another room with five two-year olds in it, anyone would choose to save the five children over the one — a horrible moral dilemma to be placed in, to be sure, but the choice is clear — it’s an ethical no-brainer. IF one believes that the life of an embryo and the life of a person are absolutely equivilent, then it’s still an ethical no-brainer. Save five or save one. Why does even the most ardent anti-abortionist hesitate to answer?

    Terminating the pregnancy is the only way to ensure the woman’s survival. Should she be talked out of having the abortion for the sake of the child?

    Wasn’t there an old movie from the 1950s (or thereabouts) which presented that very situation? I remember it involved a priest having to counsel the woman, and she chose to sacrifice her own life. I don’t recall any other details — does anyone remember this film?

    “Talking out of”, leaving aside the ethical considerations of undue interference with another person’s life-or-death decisions, still implies that a final CHOICE is being made, by the woman herself. “Pro-choice” does not mean “pro-abortion”. It means leaving the choice to the woman. It all depends on what the woman considers acceptable. I would respect such a woman’s choice, even see it as laudable self-sacrifice.

    However, where I draw the line is IMPOSING these choices on a pregnant woman by the force of the civil power. Anyone is free to believe that a fertilized embyro is morally equivilent to a living person, and to try to convince others, through persuasion and example, to believe the same way. What they should NOT be able to do is use the criminal justice system to enforce their moral choice on others.

    Which is a roundabout way of saying, if you believe abortion is wrong, by all means do not have an abortion.

    Anti-abortionists seem to have no sense of history and no foresight.

    Some of you here may not be old enough to remember what it was like before 1973. I am; I was in high school. Hospitals used to reserve bedspace for women with complications from illegal abortions; it was that common. Thousands of women died every year, tens of thousands more were rendered infertile. Is that what we are to return to? Pro-choice demonstrations used to be a sea of waving metal coat hangers. People knew what that meant. No one seems to ever factor this reality into their anti-abortion fervor. They think that by passing laws the problem will magically dissappear. It won’t. It’s the same as any other kind of legal prohibition. People will still want it, and they will still get it, and organized crime will likely pick up the slack when the legal channels are closed. Besides the increased strain on the health care system, figure in the increased law enforcement and court resources that must be diverted to abortion crime. Does anyone think that right-wing politicians will call for raising taxes to cover the cost of all these things? Not likely. So we have less cops on the street and more plea-bargained criminals released by overburdened courts.

    Some people have no foresight. Some people have no sense of history.

    A classmate of mine underwent a backroom botched abortion and died of septic shock. I knew this girl well. Her name was Bonnie. Now I’m the father of an 11 year-old daughter. For her sake and the sake of the Bonnies of her generation, I will fight to keep abortion safe, legal, and hopefully rare.

  17. Lily
    April 8th, 2006 @ 7:43 am

    I always have to laugh when the burning building scenario is brought up as a moral dilemma. It is not. Those of us who are anti abortion do, after all, recognize developmental differences. Moreover, in every situation which calls for making a choice of the sort being posited here, one saves the person with the best chance of surviving. A two year old has a far better chance of surviving than do the blastocysts.

    Something like this dilemma (only with fully developed humans in it) happens in most every disaster situation. Those who provide triage are trained to first help those most in need who have the best chance of surviving. There is a hierarchy established for whom to help first, second, etc. From all accounts one of the hardest things those people have to learn is to make that decision and walk past those who desperately need help but are unlikely to survive.

    So, we help the two year old with no sense of a moral dilemma and no less respect for the humanity of the blastocysts.

  18. Lily
    April 8th, 2006 @ 8:01 am

    Joe:
    You have just trotted out every lie about illegal abortion that has ever been invented. Beds were not reserved in hospitals for women with botched abortions. Nor did thousands of women die from illegal abortions every year. Nor were tens of thousands of women rendered infertile.

    In fact the number of women who died from illegal abortions was relatively low and reflects the fact that even when abortion was illegal, abortions were mainly carried out (85-90%) by doctors, nurses or other people with some medical training.

    How do I know this? Because Dr. Mary Calderone published a study of illegal abortion in the early 50s and reached these conclusions. Who was Dr. Calderone? She was the cofounder of SIECUS and the medical director of Planned Parenthood from 1953-1964.

    Legal abortion, if anything, is almost equally unsafe (or safe, depending on your point of view) today. If you want proof, you can read up on the deaths at the hands of incompetent “legal abortionists” at the Cemetary of Choice

    http://realchoice.0catch.com/library/deaths/bldeaths.htm

  19. JewishAtheist
    April 8th, 2006 @ 9:20 am

    RA,

    But I do believe that my genetic, mathematical identity was set at conception. That is not some fantasy or superstition. To have destroyed that clump of cells would have destroyed me, forever, and my only chance at existence.

    What’s the big deal with one particular identity being “set?” Every time someone uses birth control, they are potentially destroying at least one potential person, forever, and his or her only chance at existence. Do you oppose birth control? For that matter, any fertile human being who doesn’t have as many children as mathematically possible is destroying tens of potential people and countless potential descendants.

    The only difference postfertilization vs. prefertilization is that the options have been narrowed to one potential person. It’s still only a potential person, since it’s basically a clump of cells with no brain, no sensation, no personality. A third of them will spontaneously miscarry anyway.

  20. PanAtheist
    April 8th, 2006 @ 9:36 am

    RA, your set of genes existed before you did.
    And they did, with a little help from their cells, eventually, generate you.
    But you are *not* your genes.
    And you don’t have a leg to stand on.

  21. IA_
    April 8th, 2006 @ 11:07 am

    It comes down to this. Is it wrong to kill another person?

    Genetics shows that these are two individuals, one is not a part of the other.

    When does this second organic body with a different set of genes begin? At conception.

  22. Reba
    April 8th, 2006 @ 11:41 am

    Legal autonomy. That’s what it comes down to. Because women have to carry these cells until they can live on their own. Am I, as a woman, permitted to be legally autonomous when I am pregnant? Does my fetus and its well-being supercede my rights as a separate person? I am pro choice. I dislike abortion. I think it is a horrible choice for women to have to make. I wish women wouldn’t make that choice. I wish men would wear condoms every time they have sex and help resolve this issue as well as prevent the spread of disease. But I believe my legal autonomy must be preserved.

  23. Tom
    April 8th, 2006 @ 12:17 pm

    Joe, many pro-lifers are adamant in their belief the no situation exists in which abortion is morally permissible. There used to be a time when I’d hear “abortion is wrong except in cases of rape, incest, and when the mother’s life is in danger.” The first two exceptions, at least in my neck of the woods, have fallen out of favor. But no one brings up the last situation anymore. The point of my hypothetical dilemma (I don’t recall a movie with a similar plot, sorry) is to assess how those who hold such a moral absolute would deal with would deal with a scenario in which one life must be sacrificed for the sake of the other. It seems to me that if this circumstance is held as a justifiable exception to the rule that abortion is the moral equivalent of murder, then it also reveals that a fetus is tacitly not the equal of a viable human being even in the “pro-life” mind. I’ve asked this question before in other forums, but I have never received a response from anti-abortion activists. As is typical, Lily laughs at the burning building scenario, but she is tellingly silent on this situation.

  24. FrancestheMagnificent
    April 8th, 2006 @ 1:19 pm

    Here’s my pro-choice argument, which I have termed the Pro-Fetal Ownership Argument:

    Premise One: Individuals own their bodies, and everything that is growing within them.

    Premise Two: Fetuses grow within the bodies of their mothers.

    Conclusion One: Females own their fetuses.

    Premise Three: Individuals may destroy that which they own.

    Premise Four: Females own their fetuses.

    Conclusion Two: Females may destroy their fetuses.

    Note, this is a property-rights argument. It’s morally agnostic, and not a legal/political argument.

    Reaction on my blog has been wildly mixed.

  25. Mister Swill
    April 8th, 2006 @ 4:30 pm

    Magical thinking occurs when one treats an abstract concept like “human life” as if it is something inherently sacred. Magical thinking occurs when one asserts that the application of an abstract concept (human life) to a concrete phenomenon (sperm, egg, zygote, fetus, infant, child, adult, senior, corpse, etc.) must be an all-or-nothing proposal. A person who asserts that he or she does not believe in any gods yet clings to the conceptual absolutes those gods exist to justify is definitely guilty of magical thinking.

  26. Mister Swill
    April 8th, 2006 @ 4:33 pm

    Speaking of applying abstract concepts to concrete phenomena, I must assert again that all of this back-and-forth debate on what is life and when does it begin and is there a soul and yadda yadda yadda is perfectly fine if we are having a theoretical debate on morality, but these arguments are far from helpful if we are discussing the legal status of abortion. So, Raving Atheist, once again I must implore you to please clarify your position on laws prohibiting or restricting abortion: Should abortion be made illegal? If so, how? And should there be any exceptions? And have you considered the practical ramifications of doing so?

    It’s not like this isn’t a topical issue, what with South Dakota and other states gearing up to test drive the new Supreme Court. It will be even more topical tomorrow when the Sunday New York Times Magazine runs a story on the criminalization of abortion in El Salvador. Thousands of potential Forensic Vagina Specialists across the U.S. are eagerly awaiting your opinion.

  27. Chris Treborn
    April 8th, 2006 @ 7:08 pm

    the lord has said thou shalt not kill, and he meant babies as well. It is no surprise that the ethically ambiguous atheist is usually the one who supports the murder of unborn children. RA is clearly a superior atheist since he recognises the horror of murdering children. It’s a shame the other atheists are too busy gloating about their supposed superiority to think about the absurditiy of what they say.

  28. Mister Swill
    April 8th, 2006 @ 7:16 pm

    Yeah, Chris, nothing worse than people who won’t stop to think about the absurdity of what they say.

  29. Chris Treborn
    April 8th, 2006 @ 7:45 pm

    swill, what a good choice for your name. You can keep your pig swill to yourself. I have no interest in your opinion. If you want to talk to me then you’d better think about it a bit first because I don’t operate on your simple level.

  30. Mia
    April 8th, 2006 @ 8:13 pm

    Joe Max, that question is wicked and you know that. They all have equal dignity, and in that situation, someone is going to die. Instead of arguing against the already established fact that they are equal, argue something else.

  31. Mister Swill
    April 8th, 2006 @ 8:21 pm

    Chris, your childish name-calling habit does not fill me with confidence in your professed higher level of operation.

  32. Chris Treborn
    April 8th, 2006 @ 8:30 pm

    as I said, swill monger, I care not for your opinion. Do not address me again until you learn some manners

  33. Mister Swill
    April 9th, 2006 @ 12:21 am

    Okay, this is the point where I have to ask if it’s a ruse. Is “Chris Treborn” real, or is it a character? If it’s a character, I humbly salute whoever has able to fool me this long. Much better executed than “Lucy Muff.”

  34. Jesse Card
    April 9th, 2006 @ 4:34 am

    First off, I highly recommend removing the latter flamings (comments 2 on)between Treborn and Swill for the good of the comments area.

    Continuing:
    This is both a legal and moral question. For the first, defined both as “anti-choice” and “anti-aborion” as I know too many pro-war pro-lifers: If you believe that morally, abortion is murder (that human life begins at conception), then abortion would carry the same punishable offense as murder. It also would not matter how the baby would be conceived. Rape, incest, it doesn’t matter. It wasn’t the babies fault and would still be murder. Those who are anti-abortion and think there should be exceptions for these instances seem to really have issues with women having sexual freedom and to be free from the “punishments” or “consequences” of expressing their sexuality.
    The only time you would have to deal with the legal ramifications would be if the completion of the pregnancy would cause the woman to die. Not just affect her health. If it would only affect her health, but not kill her, it would be murder in exchange for injury. Clearly injury is ethically “superior” to death. So only in cases of likely death would it be at all an issue. To say otherwise would be unnecessarily ambiguous if you believe life begins at conception. I don’t know how you would solve these cases. I’m not anti-choice.
    However, there are also “anti-choicers” who are more ambiguous about when a human baby exists in the whole fetal timeline but believe that abortions say, after the first trimester should be regulated or banned after such time. This is a moderate area shared by many pro-choicers as in the next paragraph.

    Now, if you are as I’ll define “pro-choice”, the term does not define when you believe life begins. It defines that you would like there to be the legal choice to have an abortion. You can also be “anti-abortion” and want to minimize the number of abortions taking place as the topic is very ethically ambiguous to many people as evidenced by the world at large and this forum. I may have my doubts about the ethics of abortion, but still want the option available. I’ve chosen to avoid this whole dilemma in my life. I’m male, 22, and am now clinically sterile and have been for a couple of years now via surgical procedure. I did this for a variety of reasons, but I know that personally, I’ll be fairly safe from this dilemma at least between my partners and myself. Those on the pro-choice side, dealing purely with the legal standpoint, range from (very rarely) those who think life begins at conception to those who (also rarely) think it’s not a baby till it’s out. Many (most?) people fall in between depending on fetal development depending on many factors. Whether the fetus can survive outside of the womb (lung and brain function, 5-7 months), whether the brain has developed to function at what would be considered a “human level” which is in itself very ambiguous but many consider when both a limbic and cerebrum system functioning in a way that mimics adult brain function t’wards the end of 6-7 months. (overview of some of this argument in Carl Sagan’s article as mentioned in an earlier comment.)

    Also of note for the “identity/personhood at conception” even “conception” is up for grabs. If you mean when the sperm and egg fuse, then over 60% of people are never born as that’s the approximate number of “conceived” sperm/egg fusions that naturally do not attach to the uterine wall and are discharged naturally. Now, these numbers don’t even count the number of conceived persons that never attach due to some form of hormonal birth control. When over half the people ultimately never mattered, it raises other questions. Brings to mind Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers’ Guide entry on the population of the universe for me. To paraphrase: As the universe is infinitely large, with equally vast spaces between matter, and a finite population, the average population of the universe is 0.

    Now, as my final note on the genetic informational self. You are not wholy your genes. This is shown easily with identical twins who are obviously separate people. Or “Siamese twins,” who may share parts of their bodies but are separate people. Same genetic material, same body even, but also, two separate people. So experiencing a world obviously plays a role. At the most simple and unseen level people are affected by chemicals in their environment, which leads to a more “nature” [as in nature vs. nurture] effect even though it is, technically, your environment. It’s not affecting you in a “nurture” sense. That is, your social and experiential environment. Our social environment is often the one we have the most ability to change and notice changes. Broadly, we might define that which gives us our identity and self is our “nurture.” That is, our social and experiential environment.
    Now a fetus can be changed by those on the “nature” end of the scale. However, until the fetus has a brain that functions on a level to experience things. Now, if you accept the earlier premise that “nurture” and not nature defines us [as shown by identical and conjoined twins being distinct, separate persons despite having the same genetic identity] then the fetus cannot be a person until it has developed to a level where it can experience. Prior to that it has only a potentiality (albeit a higher potentiality) the same as any other human cell with all of its genetic material.

  35. Dada Saves
    April 9th, 2006 @ 9:02 am

    ChrisT Reborn writes, “the lord has said thou shalt not kill, and he meant babies as well. It is no surprise that the ethically ambiguous atheist is usually the one who supports the murder of unborn children.”

    Happy Passover, ChrisT! Good thing the Lord would never dream of killing babies. (Unless they’re Egyptian, I guess.)

    ChrisT is clearly a typical theist since he ignores the horror of murdering children — when it suits him. It’s a shame that he and other theists are too busy gloating about their supposed moral superiority to think about the absurdity of what they say.

  36. Lily
    April 9th, 2006 @ 9:24 am

    Ok, I’ll bite. Which theists have been gloating about their moral superiority? When? Where? Inquiring minds and all that…

  37. Mary
    April 9th, 2006 @ 9:30 am

    In all actuality it is looking more and more like the gene is that which survives,

    In all actuality, it is unquestionably the atom that survives. And nothing you or I can do can do anything about that.

    I value memetic information just as much as genetic information, as I see the advancement of our understanding of the universe as a contribution to the survivability of the species(with the exception of Sagen’s reference to destructive knowledge).

    This accords a positively mystical view of “information.”

  38. Mary
    April 9th, 2006 @ 9:32 am

    I reiterate what may atheists and virtually all theists seem unable to grasp: It is no tragedy, and no great evil, to terminate the life of a non-conscious and unfeeling embryo,

    Is it no tragedy, and no great evil, to terminate the life of a non-conscious and unfeeling sleeping person?

  39. Mary
    April 9th, 2006 @ 9:35 am

    In one room is a two-year old child, screaming for help. In another room is a perti dish containing five blastocysts awaiting in vitro fertilization. By which I presume you mean awaiting implantation

    If the blastocysts are ‘morally’ equivilent to a fully born human child, then saving five of them outweighs the saving of a single two-year old child, right?

    So, which one do you save? This is a simple question that only requires a one word answer: either “blastocysts” or “child”. So which is it?

    As soon as you answer this scenario:

    In one room is a two-year old child, screaming for help. In another room are five people, all past the age of hundred, all suffering from such cancer that their live expectancy is measured in hours, and that only with equipment which you can not remove from the room?

    So, which one do you save?

  40. Mary
    April 9th, 2006 @ 9:38 am

    So mostly my basis is that possibly the most defining aspect of our humanity is being able to *think* like humans. This ability is not present until the 5th month.

    And it goes away every time we sleep.

  41. Mary
    April 9th, 2006 @ 9:43 am

    However, where I draw the line is IMPOSING these choices on a pregnant woman by the force of the civil power. Anyone is free to believe that a fertilized embyro is morally equivilent to a living person, and to try to convince others, through persuasion and example, to believe the same way. What they should NOT be able to do is use the criminal justice system to enforce their moral choice on others.

    Which is a roundabout way of saying, if you believe abortion is wrong, by all means do not have an abortion.

    If I believe murder is wrong, I will, by all means, not murder you. But if I see someone murdering you in the street, I will draw the line at IMPOSING this choice on your attacker. What I should NOT be able to do is use the criminal justice system to enforce my moral choice on others.

    What you want to do is enforce your choices on other by means of civil power.

  42. Mary
    April 9th, 2006 @ 10:02 am

    Am I, as a woman, permitted to be legally autonomous when I am pregnant? Does my fetus and its well-being supercede my rights as a separate person?

    If you, as a woman, had agreed to kidney transplant and had the operation, and the kidney was transplanted — you would not be permitted to retract your permission and get the kidney back.

    It would have no bearing on your legal autonomy, and indeed, the well-being of the recepitient would not be raised. You are not permitted to have a third-party operated on, and if you consider that superceding your rights as a separate person, then your rights are indeed superceded.

  43. Mary
    April 9th, 2006 @ 10:14 am

    Perhaps we should re-frame the issue. Its not abortion, its ejection.

    Then we would not have headlines deploring that fifty babies a year survive abortion in Great Britain! How lovely!

    But you do have your work cut out for you, reframing it. The aim of abortion is not ejection. It’s a dead baby. An abortion that does not kill the baby has failed.

  44. Facehammer
    April 9th, 2006 @ 10:24 am

    “swill, what a good choice for your name. You can keep your pig swill to yourself.”

    Chris, you’re really bad at this. Stop operating on such a simple level.

    You’re a rubbish Christian. You can’t even burn heretics with your words.

  45. Jill
    April 9th, 2006 @ 1:45 pm

    “Jill of Feministe believes that abortion should be unlawful after six months after conception, the state assuming a higher hierarchical position at that point. She also believes that religious theories are relevant to the debate, specifically those contained in the Book of Exodus. It doesn’t get any more magical or hierarchical than that.”

    No, and no.

    Not sure where I said that I think abortion should be illegal six months after conception, because I don’t believe that. As for religious theories being relevant to the abortion debate, I was responding to the fact that they’re currently being used as part of the debate, and attempting to de-bunk anti-choice arguments that are premised on religious grounds. I was dealing with the reality of the debate, not what I think the debate should be about. I don’t think religion should factor in at all to the abortion debate.

    Now please, quit putting words in my mouth.

  46. The Raving Atheist
    April 9th, 2006 @ 11:17 pm

    Jill,

    Yes and yes.

    (1) Not sure where I said that I think abortion should be illegal six months after conception, because I don’t believe that.

    You said it here:

    As I’ve stated before, I think abortion should be legal and accessible up until the point of fetal viability. After fetal viability, it should only be legal in cases where going through with the pregnancy would pose a threat to the pregnant woman’s life or health.

    In other words, it should be ILLEGAL in all third-trimester cases not posing a threat to the woman.

    (2) I don’t think religion should factor in at all to the abortion debate.

    I addressed your claim that you weren’t actually relying on Exodus here. In that same post, you say:

    Luckily, other faith-friendly pro-choicers are coming out on the offensive, and demonstrating that support for reproductive rights is not only not immoral, but fitting within a religious code that values justice and human rights . . . The role of religious communities in securing abortion rights cannot be emphasized enough.

    Sure sounds like your saying that the abortion wars should be waged with conflicting religious dogmas, with the pro-choice interpretation of the Bible breaking the right-wing monopoly and ultimately prevailing. If you meant otherwise, you could have simply said that abortion is morally acceptable for secular reasons A, B and C and that idiotic scripture-based arguments shouldn’t be permitted to pollute the debate.

  47. conleythorn
    April 10th, 2006 @ 9:31 am

    Mary, I said “embryo,” not sleeping person. The sleeper is a “person,” which the embryo is not. Furthermore, and more important than the person himself or herself, there are many others who care about and/or depend on the “person,” a fact that does not apply to a fetus. -Thorngod.

  48. Jill
    April 10th, 2006 @ 1:19 pm

    “As I’ve stated before, I think abortion should be legal and accessible up until the point of fetal viability. After fetal viability, it should only be legal in cases where going through with the pregnancy would pose a threat to the pregnant woman’s life or health.”

    Ok… that doesn’t prove much of anything. First, “post-viability” is not analogous to “after six months.” Secondly, that shows that I do think abortion should be legal, post-viability, under most circumstances. And to be honest, my abortion views have liberalized even since I wrote that post more than a year ago.

    “The role of religious communities in securing abortion rights cannot be emphasized enough.”

    Again, what I said is not how you represented me. In the context of the rest of this post, it was clear that I meant that religious communities, pre-Roe, were a key component of the various social forces that worked together to secure abortion rights. That’s what that sentence was in reference to. And if you had read the post, that would have been clear.

    Really, Amanda was right-on when she used you as an example of how “atheist” clearly does not equal “intelligent.” I’m having a tough time figuring out if you’re really this thick, or if you’re being willfully ignorant. Either way, I’m sick of having these same arguments with you. I state my points clearly, and you purposely misinterpret them. I won’t be coming back here, and as long as you continue this campaign of purposeful misinterpretation, you are not welcome at Feministe.

  49. The Raving Atheist
    April 10th, 2006 @ 2:28 pm

    I’m having a tough time figuring out if you’re really this thick, or if you’re being willfully ignorant . . . I won’t be coming back here, and as long as you continue this campaign of purposeful misinterpretation, you are not welcome at Feministe.

    (1) If you don’t come back here, you won’t know if I’ve stopped or not.

    (2) If you do come back, you’ll have lied about not coming back.

    (3) If you can’t figure out whether I’m thick or “willfully ignorant,” you can’t convict me of being “purposeful.”

    (4) I will still read your delightful blog, and you are always welcome back here,

    (5) I’m sorry, you (if you are reading this) liar.

  50. tar
    April 10th, 2006 @ 3:43 pm

    Survival strategies. Show me yours, I will show you mine.

    You enter a house on fire. Inside, two kids, say 5 year olds, screaming. You grab them and head for the window. Now below are people waiting for you to jump. But only two out of the three can make it.

    What do you do? Sacrifice yourself? Or leave one of the kids behind?

    Don’t kid yourselves folks: the moral dilemma has to do with the survival strategy of the individual as opposed to the survival strategy of the group.

    Some of the posters here are so naive and romantic. They would readily save fetuses but are not remotely concerned whether it makes any sense for orphans or undesired children to get a crack at living, let alone happily. In our current world, the goal is definitely not to produce as many citizens as possible. We are not a breed-o-cracy because otherwise the government would have a policy to raise properly all fetuses.

    We live in a capitalist free-trade world where you are on your own; you raise your children on your own terms. (And everyone ends up paying taxes. Sorry for the sarcasm but I can’t help it.)

    Mark my vote for Lily; faced with a choice (and we are pro-choice, aren’t we?) it appears to be a better strategy to save those with a better chance for survival.

    If we cannot build a society that truly commits to helping women with unwanted children then let that woman decide whether she will have the child at all. The rest is pretense.

  51. PZ Myers
    April 10th, 2006 @ 9:19 pm

    I’m afraid you are engaging in magical thinking. Your identity was most definitely not established at fertilization, mathematically or genetically. You are the outcome of a long, long chain of equally significant developmental events post-fertilization — you trivialize a complex process when you dismiss it as nothing but a foreordained computation once two gametes meet.

    What you are preaching is a kind of genetic predestination that has been rejected by developmental biologists everywhere. It’s been about 30 years since a serious biologist made a comparable claim, and he (Benzer) has retreated far from it since.

    Your quoted post is talking about Sperm (and Egg) Magic . Life doesn’t work that way.

  52. Mary
    April 10th, 2006 @ 10:10 pm

    Mary, I said “embryo,” not sleeping person.

    You said “non-conscious and unfeeling embryo.” If the “non-conscious and unfeeling” meant nothing, you would not have thrown them in. But you did throw them it, to imply that being non-conscious and unfeeling are what makes the not a tragedy.

    The sleeper is a “person,” which the embryo is not.

    I’d like to see a definition that says so without begging the question. Certainly if you based on facilities that the embryo doesn’t have, you will find it very hard indeed to come up with one that doesn’t include a sleeping person.

    Furthermore, and more important than the person himself or herself, there are many others who care about and/or depend on the “person,” a fact that does not apply to a fetus.

    Piffle. Many fetuses are cared about. Some are depended on, as in a child conceived in hopes of getting a bone-marrow transplant.

    Morever, the sleeping person need not have anyone dependant on them. Many, many people have no one dependant on them. And many others have no one who cares about them.

  53. Dada Saves
    April 11th, 2006 @ 8:14 am

    Hey RA,

    What say you to Prof. Myers? (Assuming it’s actually he.)

  54. Thorngod
    April 11th, 2006 @ 9:33 am

    MARY, I tend to assume too much and expect people to grasp something that seems obvious to me without having to lavish a thousand words on the picture. But I’ll make a rare exception and answer your obstinacies in moderate detail.
    > Your point that a sleeping person is also “non-conscious and unfeeling” is essentially valid–though the brain’s sentinel will restore the sleeper to consciousness quickly enough if there is something that needs to be felt and attended to. However, in deep sleep, the “I” is not there, and the body in that state is, existentially speaking, equivalent to an embryo.
    > When I made the comment on “caring” I was aware of the possible (though frivolous) objection that a fetus could be cared about. The pregnant woman who wants a baby will certainly “care” about the fetus, though if she thinks she “knows” and cares about it in the way she knows and cares about the sentient people in her life, she is indulging in a fantasy. There are many people, of course, who “care” about all embryos, extant and potential, because their brains have been subverted by their emotions. And your example of creating a child for a bone marrow transplant presents moral and ethical questions you apparently have not perceived.
    > The sleeper you refer to who may have no one who cares about or depends on her/him may indeed die without his/her demise qualifying as a tragedy. Except for whatever pain the death might entail, there could be no valid objection. At the moment such a person ceases to exist, the only person his/her life mattered to is no longer in the world. And the moment you die, you also will cease to measure and register “loss” and all else. Your life is lost by others, not by you. Even as the dumb embryo, you will not care. -Thorngod.

  55. Motherless Son
    April 13th, 2006 @ 7:29 pm

    Had my mother had access to abortion back in 1955, she might still be alive today.

    Had she used contraception, she might still be alive. Had she adopted me out, she might still be alive.

    Instead, after almost 10 years of abuse from a stepfather who could not stop drinking, she died, when I was 10.

    I would gladly have given my life for hers. She never asked me. I support abortion.

  56. Charlie Wilson
    May 18th, 2010 @ 11:13 am

    Fertility Clinics really helped a lot in getting my wife to conceive a child. Just make sure you get a reliable one..-*

  57. Robert Collins
    July 19th, 2010 @ 12:44 am

    fertility clinics are on the rise these days because people still want to have kids even if they are already old`:,

  58. Luke Turner
    July 19th, 2010 @ 4:12 am

    fertility clinics are on the rise these days because people still want to have kids even if they are already old.`-

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